The world cocoa market distinguishes between two broad categories of cocoa beans: “fine or flavour” cocoa beans, and “bulk” or “ordinary” cocoa beans. As a generalization, fine or flavour cocoa beans are produced from Criollo or Trinitario cocoa tree varieties, while bulk (or ordinary) cocoa beans come from Forastero trees. There are, however, known exceptions to this generalization. Nacional trees in Ecuador, considered to be Forastero type trees, produce fine or flavour cocoa. On the other hand, cocoa beans from Cameroon, produced by Trinitario type trees and whose cocoa powder has a distinct and sought after red colour, have, so far, been classified as bulk cocoa beans. It should be noted that the difference between fine or flavour cocoa and bulk cocoa is in the flavour rather than in the other quality factors. Fine flavours include fruit (fresh and browned, mature fruits), floral, herbal, and wood notes, nut and caramelic notes as well as rich and balanced chocolate bases.
However, the definition of fine or flavour cocoa remains controversial as there is no single universally-accepted criterion that could be adopted as a basis for determining whether or not cocoa of a given origin is to be classified as fine or flavour cocoa. Usually, a combination of criteria is used to assess the quality of fine or flavour cocoa. These include the genetic origin of planting material, morphological characteristics of the plant, flavour characteristics of the cocoa beans produced, chemical characteristics of the cocoa beans, degree of fermentation, drying, acidity, off-flavours, percentage of internal mould, insect infestation and percentage of impurities. Points are awarded or subtracted by the quality assessors, depending on the condition of the cocoa beans in relation to the above criteria. However, the measurement of some of these criteria is subjective and does not establish objectively that the cocoa in question has the characteristics of fine or flavour cocoa.
In order to fill this gap and based on the recommendations adopted by the ICCO Council in May 2016, an ICCO Expert Working Group on Fine or Flavour Cocoa (EWG-FF) operated from October 2017 to April 2018 with the mandate to propose a new a working definition of Fine or Flavour cocoa. This definition is provided below.
FFP-5-2 Rev.1 A Working Definition of Fine or Flavour Cocoa – English